One of the issues which many cyclists contend with is the use of a bike helmet while riding.
We all know that the use of helmets greatly increases your chances of surviving a crash; however, they can be bulky, uncomfortable and don’t forget about the helmet hair!
Furthermore, in the cases of things like bike sharing or simply going from cyclist to pedestrian, those helmets have to be carried around, which is impossible to do with a purse or briefcase, necessitating either the use of another bag or simply carrying the helmet around, which is just awkward.
Enter the foldable bike helmet which is meant to tackle the problems of both portability and safety. But how well are they doing at juggling these two features?
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Where do Foldable Bike Helmets Come From?
There are many companies out there which make bike helmets and several which make folding ones.
Foldable bike helmets have become something of a niche for smaller companies to get in on as the larger companies haven’t bothered yet.
This means that many foldable helmets have been crowdfunded or just come out of innovative companies, so not only are you supporting your habit, you may also be supporting a small company that is just getting off the ground!
The earliest foldable bike helmet that was manufactured to be considered safe was the Motorika Snapit which came out in 1997.
The Snapit could collapse one side into the other, reducing its size by 50%. This was over twenty years ago, so how come we don’t have collapsible bike helmets everywhere?
Well, the Snapit was absolutely hideous and comparatively heavy, coming in at one pound. (This may not sound like much, but when you’re carrying other things, toting around a helmet that is one pound is just not practical).
As a result, cyclists never really caught on with them and foldable bike helmets stayed a novelty.
They would have likely stayed a novelty forever, were it not for the influx of bike and scooter sharing that began infiltrating urban centers in the new millennium.
Bike sharing is ideal for many would be cyclists because it means people could still bike around, but not have to buy or store their own bikes.
The problem was, cyclists still had to buy and store their own helmet (rental helmets tend to gross people out) and furthermore, carry it around with them when not riding. This is something of a nuisance for most people because storing a helmet isn’t easy at the best of times.
The stage was set for a resurgence in foldable bike helmets and smaller companies and innovators stepped up to fill the gap. Again, the trick is always to balance portability with safety.
Are Foldable Bike Helmets Safe?
The difficulty for consumers comes in knowing which ones are safe and then being able to afford one. In order to be considered safe, a helmet must be certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
This organization looks at bike helmets and determines whether or not they are safe to use through testing. Tests for helmets include the following:
- They cannot block peripheral vision
- They cannot fall off if the rider falls
- The straps are not too stretchy
- The helmet passes an impact test wherein it greatly reduces the impact on a rider’s head when the helmet hits a hard surface.
- The helmet must be tested on a headform piece that simulates a real head and it must be placed the way that manufacturers say it should be placed
- Helmets have to be tested in normal conditions, cold conditions and hot conditions as well as underwater!
Helmets that pass these tests, including foldable ones, have a CPSC sticker in them. Helmets without this sticker have not been tested and therefore, may not be as safe.
There are a few foldable helmets which have been both CPSC approved and to some extent, rider approved. They include the following:
The Carerra foldable was one of the earlier ones to come into the market when people began to push for them. It’s not really very portable compared to the competition because it’s accordion shape means it will only fold so far.
On the other hand, this also means that the helmet fits well and is very safe to use. Coming it at close to $200.00, it’s one of the more expensive ones out there.
The Closica doesn’t fold sideways like the Carrera. Instead, it folds top to bottom, which allows it to collapse by more than fifty percent. As a result, it looks a bit science-fictiony when it collapses and it’s easier to slip into a bag.
It’s expensive too, coming in at over $200.00; but sometimes you can find them cheaper by looking at collaborations between the company and bike companies.
The Closica has another distinction of being the only helmet sold at the Museum of Modern Art, just because of how it looks.
The FEND didn’t look at helmet design and how to make the traditional type fold up. Instead, it made helmets that were extremely well ventilated, and the folding just came naturally from there. As a result, the helmet when it’s open looks more like a weave basket with lots of room for airflow.
The helmet itself is made from the same plastics and foam as any ‘normal’ helmet. When it’s collapsed, it really collapses, making it easy to carry around.
Some riders may not be sure about how safe it is (those gaps for ventilation are awfully huge) but it is approved and it’s certainly not the only helmet with a lot of ventilation gaps.
The FEND is also far more affordable, coming in at around $100.00.
The Morpher was crowdfunded in 2013 and it won an innovation award in 2014. It’s extremely popular today because it folds in half, shrinking it down to three inches thick! Of all the collapsible helmets on the market, this one collapses the most, making it extremely portable.
It also looks like a traditional helmet, making it more comfortable for cyclists to use and is made from the same foam and plastics as the traditional helmet.
The price isn’t bad either more expensive than the FEND, but cheaper than the Carerra and Closica. It comes in at $149.00
The Overade Plixi is different again from the other foldable helmets. It collapses in three steps, clicking its way to a collapse that ends up reducing its size down to 30% of the original. (Head size to palm size, or nearly).
The Plixi has caught some flak for not being easily adjustable, to which the company responded by putting out the Plixi Fit. The Fit is on the higher end of the price spectrum, coming in a around $200.00.
Park and Diamond
The Park and Diamond foldable bike helmet aren’t out yet (you can pre-order it and get it 50% off here as well as support the company’s campaign to launch the product), but it is intriguing.
The company has gone the route of making a helmet foldable, but also very unique looking and comfortable. It looks and feels more like a baseball cap than a helmet.
It can be hand washed, it collapses into something the size of a wallet and it only weighs eight ounces. However, it is not out yet and the company is still waiting on approval from the CPSC and the helmet isn’t on the market just yet.
If you go for the pre-order, the helmet only costs about $89.00. Again though, we caution you that this helmet hasn’t been approved yet.
Although most of these helmets are CPSC approved, and thus are safe, they are also very expensive, running between one hundred and two hundred dollars, on average.
That is the other barrier which many cyclists face when they are looking at trying to find a helmet they like, can carry around and is safe to use.
But the long and the short of it is, yes, foldable bike helmets are safe, so long as they have been approved by the CPSC. They also come in all different interesting shapes and sizes and some of them have different patterns.
What About Foldable Helmets for Children?
When you think about foldable helmets you may now have it in your head the urban cyclist who rents bikes as needed rather than buying one. However, foldable helmets aren’t just for adults.
They can also be very beneficial for children as it allows parents to more easily carry the helmet when the child is done riding or has reached his/her destination.
Foldable helmets for children are just as safe as the ones for adults, assuming they have the CPSC sticker, and there are a few companies which put them out. Closica is one of the companies with foldable helmets for children (complete with a sticker collection).
However, other companies have not yet created foldable helmets for children, making them a little tricky to find. We would go with Closica ourselves, simply because they are available and easy enough to purchase. It’s a pity that companies like Morpher don’t have them for children just yet, but hopefully, they will in the future, assuming the popularity of folding helmets grows.
Foldable bike helmets seem pretty gimmicky, but they do have their uses. They are far more portable than traditional helmets while still being safety certified. They are particularly good for people who are looking at renting or bike sharing rather than buying a bike and for people who switch between walking and cycling over the course of a trip.
Foldable bike helmets certainly are safe (as long as you get the CPSC certified ones) and while they aren’t cheap, they may well be worth the investment, depending on how often you intend to use them.
Keep yourself safe while cycling and make it a little easier to carry your helmet around: foldable bicycle helmets are a great way to get your convenience and safety tied up in a neat bow.